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The Girl with Something Extra

Short-lived for a reason
I saw this show during its first run, and likely has not been on the air since it was canceled, so the recent rebroadcast of the series is a nice trip down memory lane – but only to discover how incredibly boring a show it was.

The Girl With Something Extra is a late entry in the "magical person in a real world" scenario that infected the television landscape in the 1960s and 1970s. My Favorite Martian, Bewitched, and I Dream of Jeannie are the better examples, but other efforts include Living Doll, Nanny and the Professor, The Smothers Brothers Show (the sit-com where Tom was an Angel) The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and Sally Field's first post-Giget series, The Flying Nun.

Unfortunately, there is little going in the series. Frankly, for a show about someone who can read minds, the show is a talk-fest. The pilot, except for one brief scene between Davidson and Jack Sheldon, was in its entirely a series of two-person scenes between Field and Davidson. The approach was more akin to a two-act off-off Broadway production than a sit-com.

The gimmick here, ESP, is most of the time entirely superfluous. It seldom drives or resolves story lines and in many episodes is not needed at all. Indeed, the plots could be used in almost any series without a "magical" device. The use of ESP is perhaps one of the worst magical gimmicks to use. It is a passive ability and not used to set up slapstick or farcical scenes, which are the stock and trade of these sorts of sit-coms.

There is an attempt to integrate on-location shooting in the production, which does improve the series overall look. Effort is often made to put Field in a pair of short-shorts or bikini (Thank You BTW), and Davidson is probably the first husband on TV to be shown sleeping in bed bare-chested, but such diversions were not enough to keep the series going.

With wispy scenes of walking on the beach and the focus on a young couple working out their newlywed problems, the series has a post-Love Story focus on romance that may have been appealing at some level, but was overall a drag on the sit-com premise. If the show debuted in the 1960s, it might have squeaked out two seasons, but as it was, by 1973 the magical person sit-com was long past it's due date, and it shows.

The Fess Parker Show

Move along, move along, nothing to see here...
As one of the very few people alive who actually saw The Fess Parker Show on March 28, 1974, I feel qualified to comment. Parker is cast in this Don Fedderson production as a widower, whose best friend is also a widower. In Fedderson's universe, like his previous productions, Family Affair and My Three Sons, parents die, they don't divorce. When those shows started out, 1960 and 1966 respectively, a single dad with three daughters on TV could be considered pushing the envelope, however, by 1974, audiences were ready for discussions of divorce and the quaint plot device of widowhood to explain a single father's dilemma was just so, well quaint. Also, having a best friend who is also widowed, has three sons and coincidently lives next door is pushing the limits of believability.

And as in the above named previous Don Fedderson productions the main character is involved in construction and/or engineering.

In 1974 I was a young kid and a complete and a huge fan of Fess Parker, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. The fact that the Davy Crockett phenomenon was about 15 years old, and Daniel Boone off the air for about 4 years in no way diminished my anticipation for the Fess Parker show.

So, when it did air and I saw Fess Parker in a cardigan reading a newspaper in an easy chair,I thought, "Hey, where's his coonskin hat?" So, did everyone else in the country apparently. After making his name as an action star, this show was just a bit too sedentary for Parker fans.

As far as concepts for a show go, even if derivative, it is no better or worse than most other 60s/early 70s fare, and if it had aired about four years earlier when Daniel Boone ended in 1970, it may have had some legs to it, but as it was it was too little too late, for both the star and the producer.

The Mystery of Chaco Canyon

Compelling Mystery
I recall seeing this documentary when it first aired on my local PBS station about 2000 or so and the haunting mystery of the Chaco Canyon people has remained with me since. Redford narration, the soundtrack, and beautiful photography are compelling and blend perfectly with each other. Certainly the people of Chaco Canyon had an understanding of astronomy, architecture, mathematics, and surveying, far greater than other native American tribes. It is our duty as caretakers of this land to ensure that the legacy of the Chaco Canyon people is not lost to ignorance or superstition. This documentary of the invaluable, and respectful, archaeological work done at Chaco Canyon is an important contribution.

The Sea Wolf

Great version
I caught this version of The Sea Wolf when it was originally broadcast and was very pleasantly surprised. Christopher Reeve did his usual excellent job, playing the, literally, wet-behind-the-ears socialite quite out of his element and who must toughen up or die. Although I was at first skeptical of the performance Bronson would turn in, he made the role his own. No one plays stone-faced determination like Bronson and he seems well-suited for this role. It is a rare, noted performance in the classic movie star's latter years. The clash of these two characters, and actors, drives the movie from a slow-burn to a fever-pitch intensity. Although I had read the book, I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how Bronson and Reeve would interpret their parts in the next scene.

Dr. Scorpion

70's spy tale for a cold winter's night
I remember tuning into this show when it first aired in February 1978. The tropical setting made for a nice visual escape from a brutal upstate NY winter. A world-weary spy in retirement is drawn back into service when he learns of the death of a former partner. Down in the tropics he meets the villainous Dr. Scorpion played by a scene-stealing Roscoe Lee Browne. I guess they were going for the "Dr. No" approach here. Small details, like the main character spending his retirement on a boat in port watching Abbot and Costello reruns, gave the typical two-dimensional super-spy a little bit of character.

I always liked Roscoe Lee Browne's performances, which is why I tuned in over 30 years ago and why I continue to remember it over 30 years later. A nice bit of super-spy, tropical escapism on a cold winter's evening...

The Kids from C.A.P.E.R.

They're the kids, the kids, the kids from C.A.P.E.R.
The Kids from CAPER, like "Hot Hero Sandwich," was a Saturday morning, live-action show with a pre-fab rock band. Definitely silly and a bit more fun than Hot Hero, neither, however, lasted over a season. However, I eagerly awaited for both every week the short seasons they were on the air. Although this show was only a brief blip on the radar screen of cultural ephemera, it's a good example of how industry pre-fabbed and pre-packaged teen bands for TV somehow continue to maintain a tenuous hold on their aging ex-audience!

As a 45 year old man who hasn't seen the show since it's first run, I find it funny how myself and others still recall the actors, songs, and even some story lines. It's nice to know that others of my generation still remember, "...the kids, the kids, the kids from C.A.P.E.R.!"

Goodbye, Raggedy Ann

I actually DO remember this film, or at least a little of it. I was a little tyke in 1971 and remember the promos for "Goodbye Raggedy Ann" on TV. I remember them because Star Trek's Walter Koenig was featured in the ads which touted Mia Farrow's return to the small screen. Koenig has a small role.

My mother, intent on watching the film in an era of one TV, no cable, households tried to lure me into it by highlighting Koenig's role (I was already a big Star Trek fan). But, surprise, there is little in a movie about someone contemplating suicide to attract a 6 year old, namely myself. I did have hopes Mr. Chekov might show up and use his phaser on Mia Farrow, but, alas, no such luck.

I recall managing to linger through most of the film while a bit more occupied with my Lincoln Log set than with the film. I distinctly recall remembering how nice it was that Mr. Checkov was finding work after Star Trek! The film apparently did little for Mia Farrow who, except for the occasional guest appearance on award or variety shows, such as the Muppet Show, did not return to a dramatic role on TV until the 1990s.

International Festival of Animation

Important series for animation history
I first remember being exposed to this wonderful series in the summer of 1978. I was barely a teenager at the time, so I admit the lovely Jean Marsh and her muppetesque co-host were targeted just for my age group, and a good thing too!

Yes, as the other comments indicate, there were animated shorts from various Western and Eastern European countries, including England and France, as well as Canada, the Czech Republic, and even Russia, if I recall correctly. And yet, that is just the point - I still recall so much of it after all these years, from Monty Python's Terry Gilliam's short, "The Miracle of Flight" to a bizarre French, or possibly Belgian (forgive my recollection, it's been 30 years!), piece about a blood-sucking mosquito who sets up shop in a man's nose. This series must be a treasure trove of mid-late 20th century animation and as a historical document should be released on DVD for that reason.

Pirate TV

Long ago, not completely forgotten
This short-lived MTV series was about a ship in international waters just off the United States, run by various weird, borderline social personalities, who broadcast bizarre TV shows to the U.S. My favorite characters were the engineers, the Wolfe Brothers, played by real-life brothers Greg and James Wolfe from Albany, NY, who I attended Albany High School with. I remember tuning into the show for the first time and seeing the both of them in their boxers whipping each other with towels, a bizarre and surreal moment to see two former classmates for the first time in years.

Yet, that was many years ago. Indeed, the show is a nearly 20-year old, and just about completely forgotten, relic from MTV's early period. Before MTV surrendered to a deluge of reality shows it made a real attempt at sketch comedy.


I remember Muggsy...too!
A half-hour live action Saturday series, I remember Muggsy for making the attempt to show city life from the perspective of a kid who actually didn't have it all. Mid-70s prime time family shows like Family, 8 is Enough, Apple's Way, etc, all showed suburban families facing suburban drama, the type as a poor city kid I really couldn't relate to. Although the series barely squeaked out a half season's worth of episodes showing a young girl and her older brother trying to make it together as a family in the city after the death of their parents made an impression on me. Sure, it was "gritty" in a faux-70's Saturday morning kid's show way, but the "after-school special" approach to the stories gave the series a resonance that remained with me for decades.

I forgot the title of the series until Sarah MacDonnell turned up in an episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine in 1997. Something about her seemed familiar and lo and behold when I checked out her previous credits I rediscovered Muggsy! And that theme song, classic 70s funk, really set the mood. Alas, poor Muggsy, we barely knew ye...but hey, you're still remembered!


Still remembering that initial episode
I was surprised to read there was only one episode broadcast of this show as I can still recall seeing the pilot back in 1978. My local PBS station had been running repeats of Fawlty Towers about the same time. I liked Harvey Korman from the Carol Burnett Show so I thought I'd check it out.

What surprised me is how faithful they were to Fawlty Towers. They recreated the same set and the pilot episode was basically a Fawlty Towers script (the first episode of Three's Company also follows the first episode of Man About the House pretty faithfully as well, including Jack Tripper waking up in the bath). Even Frank LaLoggia's "Petro" successfully captured Andrew Sachs "Manuel" to the point that I thought Sachs was performing the character at first! While keeping in mind that I haven't seen this show since 1978, I'm not sure it's even been rebroadcast since then, but I can remember laughing quite hard at Korman's portrayal of the title character, capturing Basil Fawlty's perpetual exasperation and near insanity.

Harvey Korman was perfectly cast as the American version of Basil Fawlty. It would be interesting to see the pilot episode packaged as an extra as part of a DVD set in the future. One can only hope.


Good work by Hughes in standard sitcom fare
Though this doesn't seem to be the logical choice of a 11 year old boy, I remember catching the series while it was on the air. The first batch of shows in 1975, with Doc's office featured in the basement ground floor of his townhouse, were the better of the series. For some reason I still recall the episode with Moosie Drier and the wonderful interaction Hughes had with the child actor. Like others, my interest faded when the focus of the series moved from the home office to the clinic. Too bad this series didn't do more for Hughes, as there must have been something to his performance to keep a young boy such as myself coming back. His performance in Doc Hollywood reminded me of his role in Doc.

CBS Afternoon Playhouse: Year of the Gentle Tiger
Episode 1, Season 2

Memorable Coming of Age story
Though it's been 27 years (!) since I saw this small film as part of the CBS Afternoon Playhouse it still flickers in my memory. A gentle, but engaging story of a young Asian teen boy trying to make friends in his community and make his dad proud as well. While working hard to develop his judo skills for the big competition the young Asian boy's (Keni) outlook on life, inspired by his martial art, helps him to make friends and fight with confidence at the judo competition. A touch of philosophy mixed in with the martial arts make for an excellent "coming of age" story. The fact that the film has remained so strongly in my memory despite not having seen it since it's original air date says something of the quality of the story.


Razzmatazz - Sunny 70s young teen show
Here's a show that gets virtually no notice among retro-TV fans, but filled a hole in commercial TV children's programming when most offerings were the typical inane cartoons of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Razzmatazz offered young teens a hodgepodge of stories about kids and the stuff kids are interested in. Sort of a cross between "Big Blue Marble" and "Real People." Brian Tochi's amiable hosting is the main thing I recall about the series, connecting with the target audience better than Barry Bostwick (to be fair, Toshi was closer in age to the viewers than Bostwick).

The show had a respectable five-year run, however, by the early 1980s networks could more freely define what constituted "childrens programming" and the trend in Saturday morning offerings became Smurfs, GI Joe, Thundercats, He-Man, et al, resulting in shows like Razzmatazz and The Big Blue Marble quickly becoming relics.

The World Beyond

Second of two movie series
I remember watching the World Beyond enough that just the one viewing in 1978 has remained with me!

The second of two movies featuring the same male lead character. The first was the World of Darkness(1977) (TV). I believe there was an intention to turn it into a regular series, but obviously it never happened.

I still recall Bernard Hughes' excellent performance as a rustic local terrified of the mysterious goings on who leads the Paul Taylor character deeper into the mystery.

If you liked "In Search of..." or 70's horror flicks like The Exorcist or The Amityville Horror you would also likely like these two films as well.

The Lathe of Heaven

This movie left such a strong impression on me when I watched it in 1980 that when the DVD was released a couple years ago I was surprised how much of the film I remembered.

The story is less straight sci-fi and more a format for Le Guin to explore the philosophical differences between the elite masters of technology trying to shape our world and ordinary human beings who can only live in it. In this film, it is the Orr-dinary human being who has the power, even if he can't quite control it.

George Orr (ordinary?) has a zen-like outlook on life that ultimately allows him to survive his world-altering dreams with his sanity intact, the same can't be said for...well you'll have to watch and find out!

Son of the Morning Star

pretty good
A very good bio-pic as it closely follows the facts. Based upon the Book "Son of the Morningstar" by Evan S. Connell (1984). Gary Cole does a good job in a drama role as opposed to the many comedy roles he's done more recently. The bleakness of the plains and the futility of the events leading up to the Little Bighorn drag the movie down in its tone at times, but then this is a Last Stand saga. It presents the Native American Point of View and presents Custer's demise as a combination of his own folly and bad decisions by the US government.

More time could have been spent on Custer's life up to and during the Civil War, he was at Appomattox, received Lee's flag of surrender and was present at the signing of the surrender (and rode away with the table General Lee signed the surrender on!). He remains the US Army's youngest general to date. The movie rather focuses on Custer's life as an Indian fighter.

Noted historian Stephen Ambrose (who wrote "Crazy Horse and Custer") supported the possibility that Custer may have fathered a child out of wedlock with an Indian woman, a point covered in the movie and a major plot element. Robert Utley, former superintendent of the Little Bighorn Battlefield, noted a letter in his book "Cavalier in Buckskin" by one of Custer's own officers that asserted such a relationship existed (Capt. Benteen, one of Custer's officers at the Little Bighorn). This is still a debatable point and Custer may have been sterile as a result of acquiring a STD during his West Point Days, according to some historians.

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